Thanks to everyone who reblogged and/or signed up for our alpha and beta readers list over the weekend.
You’ve been a real help.
What’s that? You didn’t know we had a list of alpha and beta readers for Supernatural fic and/or RPF? And you need some fic help?
Over a decade ago when I first started getting into fanfiction, the term Alpha was used more frequently. A writer had the option of finding either an Alpha or a Beta to help them with their writing.
A Beta is for all the basics like grammar, but when it came to an Alpha, they did so much more. Alphas almost co-wrote the story with you, but not quite, and it was such a fun and interactive process.
What an Alpha Does:
- Proofreading (like a beta)
- Bouncing Ideas (email, chat, phone ideas back and forth)
- Discussion (ideas, plots, problem points, or even just a pick-me-up)
- Editor (small and large instances, often marked in red in your document)
- Story Structure (does it flow? does it follow the format writer wanted?)
- Canon vs Fanon Advice (distinguishing and suggesting)
- Consistency (e.g. character has same color hat from beginning to end)
- Major Rewrite Suggestions (an entire chapter doesn’t work? help!)
- Cheerleading Through an Entire Fic (not just chapter by chapter)
- Presentation (help in picking out everything from cover art to the tagline to the finished product structure, maybe even creating the PDF or HTML page for the writer)
- And more that I’m not even thinking of right now
An Alpha would get credit for this (most of the time right underneath the author’s name on the cover art and in the story info), and people looked to alphas like they were special, they were very much appreciated, and if you found one, you would do pretty much anything for them.
I’ve been on both ends of this, and I really miss it being a more widespread thing. I’ve got my own alpha in the form of a friend who has been with me from the beginning of Alpha House, and she’s still a HUGE help. It wouldn’t be the fic it is without her, and I wish more writers could experience this.
How Using an Alpha Works
First you find one, and you get their email/chat ID/phone number. You tell them the ENTIRE idea for your fic (spoiling it all), where you want it to go, how you want it to feel, what the characters’ motivations are, etc. Then you send the alpha what you have so far, which can be part or all of the fic.
Once the alpha reads it, they mark in red any suggestions, but instead of just marking mistakes, the document looks like a professional editor from a book publishing company got a hold of it.
You’d either email back and forth or (more often) chat online or talk on the phone with them while you both went over it, each making different suggestions. It wasn’t just a one-day/one-sitting thing, and from then on there’s emails back and forth with cheerleading and ideas and chunks of fic from both the writer and the alpha, so that by the time the fic is done, anywhere from 1% to sometimes 49% of the writing is from the alpha (with your fic in mind, not their own way they wanted the story to go), and the rest of it was at least helped along by the alpha.
It was very rewarding to do this for other writers. I enjoyed it a lot. And having an alpha myself was such a treat. I can’t even explain it to you. It’s an awesome experience, and one I’d love every writer to experience.
What it Does for Beginners
New writers are vulnerable and don’t know their way around. An alpha would take them under their wing and help them along, helping them find where and how to post, how to use warnings, summaries, tags, etc. If a writer got bad feedback, the alpha was there to listen and encourage. If they got good feedback, an alpha was there to celebrate right along with them.
In my opinion, it made for more confident writers, because they were prepared for some of the shit writers get, and alphas stopped them from ever making newbie mistakes in the first place that get some writers flamed and ridiculed. Not that I’m condoning flaming, but the truth is it happens.
All in all, I’d love for the concept of Alphas to come back.
Also better known as an “Editor”.
Don’t confuse an editor and a beta reader. They have two very distinct and seperate jobs.
Oh, don’t worry. I didn’t confuse the two at all. An editor’s job has nothing to do with the creative process, while both an alpha and beta reader can have that role. An editor looks at the bigger picture, almost impersonally, while proofreaders/beta readers go line-by-line.
Alphas take it a step further, not only going line-by-line, but also keeping in mind continuity and the bigger picture along with one-on-one discussion with the author. Some beta readers do this too, but it’s not really expected of them.
An editor, depending on what company they work for and the position they have, has a much broader range of responsibilities than a beta reader and a much different role compared to an alpha reader. Besides the fact that the term editor just isn’t typically used in the fanfiction community.
The whole point I was trying to make, which some of the people reblogging didn’t seem to pick up on or purposely ignored, was that alpha readers in the circles of writers I frequented years back were more like co-authors and encompassed so much more than what is expected of a beta reader, and almost nothing like what an editor does, which is why I didn’t bother using the word editor. In no way was I making a blanket statement because my experiences in fanfiction aren’t the same as everyone else out there.
I’ve enjoyed seeing a lot of people reblogging this while tagging their friends who fit the above definition of alpha reader, complimenting them and thanking them, excited to have a “new” term for these people who have had such an impact on their writing. It’s nice to see that they’re appreciated 🙂
Holy shit dude, that was beautiful!
thanks! seriously I wish i could reach through the screen and give you a massive hug right now
@ellendd YOU THE MAN!
It’s true: betas are wonderful!
Betas are amazing 😀
A while back I posted something on Betas and Fanfic, mentioning the circles I used to be in and how “alpha” was a term used to describe a beta who was even more involved than just proofreading. This post now has over 2400 notes, and my favorite part about the whole thing is a lot of people are tagging their betas and saying how awesome they are!
So yes, betas are amazing 🙂